Texas Summer Trip (Part 2 of 3) – Caneel Bay

Brad and I have been married ten years this summer.  (Yikes!  We must have been child-brides or something…we’re not old enough to be married 10 years!)  We decided to take a 10th Anniversary trip during our trip to the US, mainly so we could take advantage of FREE BABYSITTING.  Did I mention that we LOVE grandparents?!  After Kathleen’s wedding, we spent a week in the Caribbean while the kids enjoyed some quality time in Amarillo with the grandparents.  We have wanted to go to the US Virgin Islands for a long time, but work, kids, graduate school, more kids, and an international move seemed to get in the way of timing.
I loved the early morning light...so beautiful
We decided to go to St. John. One of the reasons we wanted to go to St. John is that it is very undeveloped.  The island is almost entirely national park, deeded to the US government from the Rockefeller family.  We stayed at the Caneel Bay Resort in the National Park, and completely surrounded my rainforest and 7 pristine beaches. The island has no cruise ship docks, and no airport, so visitors arrive by ferry from St. Thomas.

The ferry arriving early in the morning, with staff that live on St. Thomas

The resort has a ‘Manager’s Tea’ several times a week, in this open-air Terrace House.  It was a great way to ‘people-watch’ and see who else was staying at the hotel.  We saw one multi-generation family that were die-hard UT fans.  Each morning, at least one of their group had on a UT shirt, hat, etc.

Manager's Tea at The Terrace House - like something out of a Pottery Barn catalog
Manager’s Tea at The Terrace House – like something out of a Pottery Barn catalog

Caneel Bay was amazing.  We had a wonderful time.  The grounds of the resort were  immaculate, but not over the top.  It is very ‘old school’, in fact, I got the impression that not a lot had changed in the 60 years it has been open.  The rooms did not have TVs or telephones, there is no vehicular traffic on the resort, aside from a few golf carts, and everyone has a low-key attitude.  The service was fantastic.  The manager even arranged for a pair of snorkel fins be brought in for Brad, when we discovered that his feet were too big for the fins at the resort. We snorkeled and swam with the sea turtles. We took a long hike through the national park into the main town, Cruz Bay, where we ate dinner at a local restaurant having ‘open mic’ night.

Honeymoon Beach
Honeymoon Beach (also – pasty white leg alert!)

Brad learned to sail, and I enjoyed standup paddle boarding. (Yes, the water is that blue.)

Out on his own!

We took a day tour to the British Virgin Islands, where we went hiking in the Baths on Virgin Gorda, which involved swimming ashore, hiking and climbing over boulders, and then swimming back out to the boat.  (Sadly, no pictures.) We also snorkeled in the out islands, had lunch at Cooper Island, and then ended the day at the Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke.

Soggy Dollar Bar
A rather interesting place, full of shady characters…

Next stop, snorkeling!

Caneel Bay Beach in the early morning sun
Caneel Bay Beach in the early morning sun

For dinner on our anniversary, we thought about having a candlelight meal on the beach (the hotel arranged this for several people during our stay).  Thankfully, we opted to dine at a restaurant on the hill overlooking the Bay.  It POURED buckets and buckets of rain that evening.

10th Anniversary Dinner
Celebrating our 10th Anniversary – right before the rain

Our last morning at Caneel Bay!  We will definitely return!You can see more of our pictures here. We can’t wait to return!

Click here for Part 1 of our trip.  Part 3 coming soon!

Menu Plan July 13 – 19

Wow…where did the week go?!  Our days have been very busy, despite the lower-key summer around here.  In Ireland, as in the rest of Europe, people really disappear for the summer.  They take a few weeks off, visit family, take a trip, and just generally relax.  Another benefit of getting several weeks of vacation each year!

This week, the post is more about what worked, and what did not.

Saturday – We did barbeque chicken with sauteed spinach and mushrooms, and fresh corn on the cob.  Fresh corn is hard to find here.  Usually it is sold “pre-boiled” at the store, in this vacuum sealed packaging.  I found fresh corn for about €1/ear ($1.30 – try not to be appalled at the price) at the local Polish store, so we enjoyed a rare treat here.

Sunday – Grilled Halloumi (a type of cheese) skewers with zucchini, red pepper, eggplant, and red pepper, with bulgur salad on the side.  Halloumi is a firm cheese that can be grilled, or cooked in a saute pan.  The kids have really liked this in the past, but this meal was a total dud this time around.  “I don’t like that.  Ewww. What else are we having?…”  Just in case you readers out there assume that my kids eat everything we serve. 😉  On a positive note, Isaac decided he likes zucchini now.

Monday – Meatless Monday!  We made a new pasta dish, Pasta with yogurt, peas, and chile.  It is adapted from another Ottolenghi cookbook, Jerusalem.  This was a big hit with the kids, and I liked that the pasta sauce was made from yogurt – less effort and less fat too.

Tuesday – Homemade soft tacos with rice and beans.  Since the Tex-Mex selection in Ireland is so lackluster, we make our own taco seasoning, Spanish rice, black beans, and salsa.  Making everything from scratch definitely takes more time than it would in the US, where great store-bought Tex-Mex ingredients can be found.  I used to make homemade tortillas, but the roti flatbread I can buy at the Middle Eastern shop is a great substitute.

Wednesday – Carrot Soup and Cheddar Souffle.  Ok, it was really warm, and I decided I didn’t want soup.  There are plenty of soup-worthy days in Ireland, but yesterday was not one of them.  We made breakfast tacos with the leftover tortillas, beans, and salsa.  Just add scrambled eggs!

Thursday – TBD.  Thawing a pound of “turkey mince” (ground turkey) as we speak.  Since writing the above, we made turkey burgers, sauteed the leftover Halloumi cheese, and served it with homemade burger buns, tomato and bell pepper salad, and mixed veggies (peas, carrots, corn and green beans.)  Not bad for a meal intended to use up the “bits and bobs” of leftover ingredients in the refrigerator!  Oh, and the kids are back to liking Halloumi again.  Sigh.

Friday – Pepperoni pizza, or maybe something more interesting, depending on what arrives in the CSA box!

Summer Grilling – Menu Plan July 6-12

I don’t know about you, but the weather here in Ireland has been GLORIOUSLY BEAUTIFUL for the past few days, and the good weather is supposed to last through the week.  We are taking advantage of the weather to do some grilling and enjoying time outside.  I’m actually a bit late posting this because I have avoided spending time indoors with my computer.

Saturday, July 6 – we spent the day in Skerries, on the coast north of Dublin, and I picked up some great Irish salmon, and mussels at the local fishmonger.  Mussels here are about the equivalent of $1.80 – $2.00/pound.  They are super fresh, and so easy to prepare.  We made maple syrup and ancho chile grilled salmon, grilled mussels, with honey mustard roasted potato salad.  To grill mussels, just clean and de-beard them, then toss on the grill for 5 minutes or so, until they are open.  That’s it!  It’s literally that easy.

Sunday, July 7 – Another great grilling day.  We made lamb burgers with grilled vegetables and pesto barley.

July 8 – Meatless Monday.  Fried brown rice with stir fried tofu, cabbage, and carrots.  The kids love tofu, especially when when stir-fry it with soy sauce and brown sugar, and it creates a sweet and salty caramelized coating on the outside.  I use the recipe out of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

July 9 – Pasta Bolognese from Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?  This pasta dish is quick, easy, and can easily be doubled for a crowd.  In the time that it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta, you can make a great bolognese sauce.  It is definitely better than spaghetti sauce from a jar, and only a few minutes more prep time.

July 10 – Tomato soup and onion galette. We tried tomato soup a few weeks ago, and the kids have been asking for it ever since.  We have an abundance of onions right now, so we’ll probably make an onion galette (free-form tart).

July 11 – Leftovers! Or baked potatoes…or both!

July 12 – Pizza – if this weather holds up, we might try it on the grill.

Ok – next week I really have to start adding pictures to these posts!